Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Secret Agent,

The Orange Lake sheriff has ruled Hap Taskett’s death a simple drowning. But for Hap’s eighteen year old daughter, Leanne, there’s nothing simple about it. Especially when her wild older sister Claudette insists--despite all evidence to the contrary--that she is responsible, then disappears down the highway without even a goodbye.

With her father's dilapidated motel crumbling around her in the slick North Florida heat, Leanne prepares an escape of her own: college, marriage and all the trappings of a normal life. Then Citra Starke, a strange backwoods girl, appears on her doorstep and despite her instincts, Leanne takes her in as a sort of surrogate sister.

But Citra has more connection to the family than she lets on, and she hopes to uncover keys to what she believes was Hap’s murder. Now, careful Leanne must track her missing sister and piece together the secrets of her father’s life--and death--if she is to salvage what’s left of her tattered family.

ORANGE LAKE is contemporary, “book club” fiction, an edgier, Southern Where the Heart Is. It is told in alternating points of view and is complete at 83,000 words.

I grew up in Florida and spent several years teaching in the rural communities around Orange Lake. I’ve also attended the ***’s Master’s program in Creative Writing (where I won a teaching assistantship) and have been fortunate to work with many talented writers--including ***, ***, and ***-- while developing my craft. I’ve published several poems and a few short stories in literary magazines such as *** and ***. I am an active member of *** Writers community.

I've included the first 250 words of my manuscript below.



Leanne watched as Daddy pushed the canoe into the shallows, his rolled-up jeans already soaked through at the knees. Her sister Claudette sulked in the bow. They expected Leanne to come along but it’d been years since family outings, and today was no day for one: wind hissing across the lake, sky the dull white of an old sheet.

Daddy tilted his head toward the vacant middle seat. “Come on.”

Leanne hesitated. She had no desire to witness this latest argument, whatever its origin. Claudette was pissed, Daddy too, though also jittery and tense.

Leanne would be off to college soon. She didn’t need them.  The wind plowed her short bangs from her forehead and numbed her cheeks. She shook her head, started up the slope to the lodge. It was the one time she’d refused them.

And later this seemed the hinge on which the whole day turned.  If she had just gone ahead and played her part, the good girl, the calm in all their bluff and bluster, none of the rest would have happened.

She was standing at the kitchen sink when she heard the shouting: tourists with high, frightened voices. “Holys***! Holys***!” honked over the lake, like the call of some strange bird.

She ran out to the stoop, but the canoe was nowhere in sight. Instead, a bass boat headed for the put-in. And Claudette hunched inside it, her face all fury and fear. The boat scraped up on the ramp.

Where was Daddy?


Robbin L. said...

The story itself sounds interesting, but I had a difficult time following the query. Where was the mother? How can Leanne afford college? The query leads me to believe the family's dilapidated hotel was failing. When Citra appears - I'm not sure what family she has a connection to? Leanne is on her own, right? Her sister ran away, not sure what happened to her mother, and her father died. But I do like the intrigue toward the end - there is more to this story and how her father really died. I thought your visuals in the first page were good. Good luck.

Leigh Ann said...

I love the query. Great premise, and I normally can't stand lit fiction. So you won me over! :)

Your writing sample is AWESOME. I really get a sense of hte family dynamics, and that Leanne's relationship with her dad and sister is complicated, just from this first page. Awesome job.

amber said...

I think it's fantastic. I mean, it's a bit long, but otherwise has a good hook and in interesting plot. I was able to follow it just fine -- I challenge you to find some plot point, though, that can get cut from the query. It'll make it tighter and shorter.

The 250 words are good. I've never really heard a bird make a sounds anything like 'Holyshit,' and it's a bit hard to pretend to hear, but OK. Sure.

This was a REALLY good graph:
'And later this seemed the hinge on which the whole day turned. If she had just gone ahead and played her part, the good girl, the calm in all their bluff and bluster, none of the rest would have happened.'

erica and christy said...

I like the query, but I'm not sure about the comparison to an "edgirer, Southern Where the Heart Is." I'm not getting a feel for how it's close to that book - maybe compare your voice to that author rather than the books?

The page is good - one small thing that hit me was that she said it had been years since they had a family outing and then says this was the first time she ever said no to them.

Thanks for sharing and good luck!

Melanie Stanford said...

Right off the bat, I had a hard time with an 18-year-old calling her Dad, "Daddy". At first, I thought this was a flashback because of that.
I felt the "And later..." paragraph was unnecessary. It drew me out of the story.
In the query- I didn't really get why Claudette would admit being responsible and then leave. Why not just take off? Why admit responsibility for no reason? I don't really get why she takes in Citra despite her instincts either. Other than that, it sounds like a great mystery. I am intrigued despite those things. One other tiny point, take out the word "careful" in the third paragraph.

Melissa said...

I like the storyline. I would be interested to know what happened to Dad (Daddy - are they in the south during a certain time or something?) The one thing that threw me a little was the sentence:Leanne 'prepares an escape of her own'....then says 'all the trappings of a normal life." Why does she want to escape only to be trapped by a normal (i.e. boring) life? I would rephrase that. the escape part is good. I wouldn't use 'trappings of a normal life' My novel alternates POV between the boy and the girl- I'd be interested to see how yours alternates. Leanne and ?? narrate? Citra? Just curious. Nice job.

The Agent said...

P.W. - I like this query a lot, but "book club" fiction immediately conjures an Oprah-like presence that does your book a disservice. The premise has the makings for a nice piece of literary fiction, but trapping it in a specific sub-genre makes me think you're trying to run from that title. Citra seems like an interesting character and the query offers an eery undertone that things aren't going to be what they seem. Nice job! Although, I agree with some others that an 18 year old saying "Daddy" just seems weird. I'd also prefer Leanne to be a little older (post-college), especially since she's thinking of marriage.